After coming off of a five-game win streak, which started at the end of March, the Indiana Pacers have struggled and lost three of their last four games. The only game they won was by a mere five points against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they trailed by 20 points heading into the fourth quarter.
There are only three games left in the regular season for the Pacers, and they cannot afford to hit a bump in the road right before the playoffs are about to start. This slideshow will attempt to evaluate the recent struggles the Pacers have been dealing with.
The Pacers have been the best defensive team in the league for most of the season. They've recorded the highest defensive efficiency (per Hollinger's Team Stats), but they haven't demonstrated that type of elite-level defense in the past few games.
In the last six games, the Pacers have allowed their opponents to register offensive ratings of 110 or higher in five of them.
Whether it's a lack of effort or lack of motivation, the Pacers' defense just hasn't been the same. It's unlikely that Coach Vogel's system is the problem at this time of the season, so most of the blame should probably be on the players themselves.
Either way, the Pacers will need to pick up their play on the defensive end and regain their status as the best defensive team in the league, or else they'll be sent packing in the playoffs earlier than they expect.
Last night's game against the Brooklyn Nets was the perfect example of the Pacers losing primarily because of a slow start.
In certain games this month, the Pacers just haven't come out with the same level of intensity and aggressiveness at the beginning of games. When the second half comes, the Pacers pick up their play, but sometimes it's too late.
They were able to rally back from a 20-point deficit and defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they could not do the same against the Nets. The Pacers trailed for nearly the entire game, and were able to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but they just ran out of gas at the end and couldn't seal the victory.
Perhaps the long regular season grind has taken a toll on the players, but the Pacers aren't the only ones who could use that excuse.They cannot fall behind early against any playoff team, or else they'll find themselves completely out of the game sooner than they realize.
Paul George is the best player on the team and has unquestionably improved every aspect of his game this season.
However, his shot selection and drop off in efficiency in the past few games have been alarming. Although he has increased his production in every major statistical category since last season, his field-goal percentage has dropped every season since he's been in the league.
It's not like he can't shoot all of a sudden, but he should pick and choose his spots more effectively. In the last four games, George has averaged 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds on 29 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc (per Basketball Reference).
It's not a coincidence that the Pacers' current slide happened at the same time as George's slump. He's an important piece to the team, and his struggles have translated into losses for the team. It's as simple as that.